Marc Penfield quotes a website on 2/01/2002 in which "George Rijcke,
an operative with interpol in Burssels, says that he saw a copy of bin
Laden's birth records and they give March 10, 1957, 10:58 AM, Jeddah,
Saudi Arabia. Marc says that the progressions fit perfectly for this
time using LMT."
Marguerite dar Boggia
quoted Zip Dobyns in July 2002, that Karen Hamaker-Zondag said she had
data for from his hospital records. It is March 10, 1957, in Jiddah,
Saudi Arabia, at 10:58 AM EET. LMR
wrote email to Karen who answered, “My source is the same as Noel
Tyl's: William de Rijcke in Belgium, a physician and astrologer, who
has a good friend working at Interpol. This friend has been searching
the archives of Interpol and found the date and time. He gave this to
William de Rijcke who in his turn spread the news. I heard somebody
mentioning that it was a hospital record, but I am not 100% sure it
is. Maybe Noel knows, as he also has informed several people metioning
William de Rijcke. I
knew already for quite some time that Interpol stuck to March 10, 1957.
They insisted that the data the US govenment used were wrong. So I was
not surprised that this date was mentioned by the friend of William
de Rijcke.” Noel
Tyl wrote, “As you probably did, I was deluged with everyone's
theory about bin Laden. As you probably didn't (:-) I threw it all out
after a while, because it was all so wild and confusing. …..One
of my students, Alan Ouimet, is a retired FBI agent. He tried to tap
into the Interpol annals, etc.” Alan
J. Ouimet wrote, 7/26/2002, “Dear Lois and Noel: I am only to
happy to share concerning Usama. The Interpol DOB - no time indicated
is March 10, 1957 in Jidda. I have worked with this chart and am convinced
that of the many DOB's on him - this is the one.”
LMR noted, 7/31/2002,
“The policy of AstroDatabank is that when data with many contradictions
is said to be a specific date and time, documentation is required. Inasmuch
as we are not able to get official records and I do not even have any
copy of an Arabian birth certificate to know if the time of birth is
indeed recorded, or whether Interpol has a hospital or family record,
I find it necessary to keep a rating of DD on these data. Though I would
dearly wish to say that we have an accurate and precise date and time
for bin Laden, these are still hearsay data, second hand at best. I
could only recommend that we study the charts with caution.
#Zip Dobyns writes,
" I'm testing a time of about 4:50 PM, 3 hours later than UT."
#LMR working with
2:23 PM as of 9/18/2001. Other dates are given: Kelly
Wicker writes, "So far there are three birth times known.
July 30 1957
March 10 1957
June 27 1957
seems to be doing a fair amount of research on this subject.
sends the following: From a US State Department Factsheet located at
the following website,
http://www.fpc.gov/CRS_reps/crsterr3.htm, we find that was born July
30, 1957, presumably in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.)
sent the following comprehensive post on 9/16/2001:
"Regarding the birth date of Usamah Bin Laden, I've seen web pages
that mention only a year-- 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1958-- and I've seen
web pages and posts that give a variety of dates-- March 10, 1957; April
7, 1957; June 28, 1957; July 28, 1957; July 30, 1957; and October 3,
"According to an interview with Bin Laden which can be found on
various web pages, he himself has given his year of birth as 1377 AH
("1377 hegira"). If that is so, then he had to have been born
sometime between approximately July 29, 1957 and July 17, 1958-- give
or take a day or so for both dates. This would mean that 1955 and 1956
are out of the question-- nor can March 10, 1957; April 7, 1957; and
June 28, 1957 be correct.
"I think the
July 28, 1957 and July 30, 1957 dates look suspicious because they are
approximately the first day of the Islamic year 1377 AH. The first day
of each month is tricky to determine either ahead of time, or by a computer
algorithm, because it begins when the crescent Moon is first spotted
following the New Moon, and this event is subject to various factors.
Also, the day begins at sunset on what we would call the previous day,
so if for example the first day of 1377 AH was July 29, 1957, this would
mean that it actually began at sunset on July 28, 1957!
it's possible that Bin Laden was indeed born on the first day of 1377
AH. However, I can't help wondering if the July 28, 1957 and July 30,
1957 dates might conceivably have been arrived at in the following way:
"When was Bin Laden born?" "Answer: "In 1377 AH."
"And when was 1377 AH?" "Answer: "On July 28 [or
"As far as
the other dates, I've personally seen people convert dates incorrectly
from one calendar to another. For example, I used to work for a Korean-born
man (whose family moved to America when he was a child) who celebrates
his birthday as February 14, 1958, although he told me that he actually
has two birthdays. When I asked him what he meant, he said he'd been
told that he was born on the 14th day of the 2nd month of the Year of
the Dog. The Year of the Dog began in 1958, so he had arbitrarily decided
to celebrate his birthday on February (2nd month) 14 (14th day), 1958
(Year of the Dog)-- even though a correct conversion would put his birthday
on about April 2, 1958 (depending on what time the day begins in Korea,
as well as time zone considerations). The Year of the Dog didn't even
begin until February 18, 1958-- four days after the day he celebrates
as his birthday! It might be possible that Bin Laden's birthday-- if
it's even known-- was incorrectly converted in such a fashion (e.g.,
the 10th day of the 3rd month).
"I would also
point out the uncertainty surrounding Dodi's birthday (remember Diana
and Dodi?), as his birthday had been given as April 15, but it was stated
by several people that it's a fairly common practice in the Middle East
to use the 15th of the month as the birthday, due to the fact that they
don't always note the actual day of birth, just the month and year of
birth. Even though none of the dates given for Bin Laden fall on the
15th of a month in the Gregorian calendar, we should beware of the possibility
of a similar practice of using some arbitrary day of the Islamic month
is the possibility that, some years ago, someone in an intelligence
agency may have heard that Bin Laden had just celebrated his birthday
(if he even celebrates his birthday) on some day of the year, such as
March 10. They may have then taken that date and used it with his year
of birth, which seems to have been 1957 (or perhaps 1958). If this sort
of thing did happen, it would be wrong, as a particular date (month
and day) in the Islamic year does not fall on the same date each year
in the Gregorian calendar. For example, if it had been learned that
Bin-Laden had celebrated his 30th birthday on March 10, 1987, it would
be incorrect to conclude that he was therefore born on March 10, 1957.
It just doesn't work that way.
Prince Dipendra murdered his family and shot himself, I saw some web
pages which gave his birthday incorrectly, and they cited CIA sources!
This makes me wonder if the "field information" gathered by
intelligence agencies can be trusted, especially when it comes to people's
there is always the chance that a Gregorian date written in numeric
format might be misread, such as 3-10-1957 being variously read as either
March 10, 1957 or 3 October, 1957. "In light of these facts and
considerations, I would be extremely cautious about accepting *any*
date of birth for Bin Laden without a grain of salt the size of Jupiter."
#Jayj Jacobs reports
that "Bin Laden, Al-Jazeera - and I'' by Jamal Abdul Latif Ismail,
includes an interview in which Bin Laden says he was born 45 years ago,
in the Muslim year of 1377, in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The family
later moved between the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the
port city of Jiddah. (Four months after Aug 1998 is December. 1998 minus
45 is 1953.)
#David G. Baker
deduces January 3, 1955, 8:50:03 AM.
#Robert Currey writes
12/2001, "Justin Toper telephoned to say his contact confirms UBL
was born in July 1957 though he has no more details. So I am sorry not
to be able to provide at this stage. As I have mentioned his source
[who Justin wants to remain confidential] is a journalist in the Middle
East who has kept a file on UBL from birth and though the journalist
has access to 'official records' not open to the public, he says that
the record of the day of birth was not kept."
#Tony Louis writes
on 12/10/01: “This message appeared on Angelicus Merlin. Included
is my reply:
The site http://www.islamicfinder.org has a conversion program. The
10th day of the 3rd Month of 1377 Hijri =
Gregorian-Hijri Dates Converter Day / Month / Year Hijri
You entered: 10 / 3 / 1377 The conversion result is: Friday 4
October 1957 C.E.
(There is a small probability of one day error.)
#CF Perez wrote:
"I had acquired information from a Muslim historian, (on the Internet)
who said bin Laden was born 3rd month, 10th day of the Muslim calendar
The FBI lists his DOB as March 10, 1957--the third month and tenth day
of our calendar year--incorrectly transposing the Islamic days and months
for ours, getting the year correctly. The March 10 1957 date confirms
that the 3rd month and 10th day are what we are looking for. I fear
that I cannot I go back to check this Muslim data (3rd month, tenth
day, year 1377) and need a little help to conclude that these indications
are consistent with the facts. The pages I once had access to on 9/11
are now gone. So, I go from memory on this, frustratingly! If someone
has access to the Arabic notation for the bin Laden birth, and I have
remembered incorrectly, let me know, please. It will, if proven incorrect,
make all the following false.
the story after September 11 with some vehemence, I examined all the
charts proposed at the Astrodatabank.com site. Proposed dates include:
March 10, July 27 or 29 and Oct. 3, in 1957. The October 3rd chart stood
out like a sore thumb, but I had to wait to resolve the problem between
the calendars before I could comment.
among other judicious comments on the conversions of the calendars,
makes a point about the possibility that the March 10 and October 3
dates may have had the month/date transposed. The 10th month and 3rd
day "switch" is a curious phenomenon: the calendar translator
would verify that the Muslim date occurs on the 10th month of our calendar,
and on the third day (10/03)! But, it is not a classic mix-up between
date and month. Instead, a pattern emerges which explains all the dates
using our Western dates to describe the bin Laden date. That is clearly
foggy thinking. Using Michael Rideout's (www.astrodatabank.com) article
about the Islamic calendar, the new moon of July 27th (on our calendar)
would mark the first day of the Muslim year 1377, the "New Year's
Eve" of 1957.
"We must realize
that the use of the crescent moon as a symbol for the Muslim World would
be tied to the culture's calendar tradition. In Muslim fashion, we would
count the two days following the new moon to sight the first appearance
of the crescent moon, and so the established counting of the first day
of the year is at the first appearance of the crescent moon, occurring
usually within two days, probably the 29th or 30th of July, 1957, depending
on one's location. If the crescent cannot be viewed until some later
hour, it may depend on sea level and horizon variances as well.
says of July 27, that since it signifies the first day of the year,
that it is the year significator, and a popular way to show discretion
with private information: just give the year. All the July dates (27-30)
in 1957 are "Happy New Year," and generically related to the
new year holiday, not necessarily the birth data of bin Laden. After
the new moon of July, using our calendar (the Muslim month of "Muharram")
we may find the third month, count forward another ten days and expect
to find the correction between the two calendars, ours and the one followed
by the Muslim population. The next new moon (for month Two) occurs Aug.
26, month "Safar"; the third new moon occurs on Sept 23, month
"Rabi-Awwal." Now, add ten days to the Sept 23 new moon and
we find October 3 1957, "three months and ten days of 1377."
October 3rd is the date which actually does appear to be in the third
month (Rabi-Awwal) and tenth day--following the appearances of the New
Moon's crescent after Day One of year 1377, the year of bin Laden's
birth. I make this conclusion perhaps too quickly, but the little bit
of math just seemed to fit too perfectly--this after having seen and
been very impressed by the chart for October 3, 1957.
"I was inclined
to place the sun on the ascendant, so I drew a chart for 6:16 a.m. I
have now revised that to be about an hour earlier, in order to fit the
constellated Mars/Jupiter "besiegement" of his Sun into the
first house. This is a pure guess, but it seemed to emphasize the story
of his fame and his inclinations quite neatly. I put the sun on the
ascendant because Bin Laden's face is as familiar to us "as the
sun." To his adherents, he represents the Sun. To us in the western
world, he may represent the alchemical world's Black Sun.
"The Sun on
the ascendant--when I looked at this date a few weeks ago, right after
the attacks--immediately struck me because of the purely Libra characteristics
of his face, which correspond to the appearance of the typical Libra
qualities: high arched brow, mild, polite manner. His smiling "beatific"
attitude seems just so blessedly pacific: Libra. With that besieged
solar ascendant I found a spectacular signature which describes the
high, arched (Libra) eyebrows and the medical history: he has been on
kidney dialysis in the last 4 years. (Kidney is ruled by Libra).
"One of his
teachers, "Brian Fyfield-Shayler, 69, gave the then 13-year-old
bin Laden and 30 other privileged classmates attending al-Thagh school,
an élite Western-style Saudi school in Jedda, four one-hour English
lessons a week during 1968 and 1969. He described bin Laden as a 'shy,
retiring and courteous' boy who was unfailingly polite. 'He was very
courteous - more so than any of the others in his class. Physically,
he was outstanding because he was taller, more handsome and fairer than
most of the other boys. He also stood out as he was singularly gracious
and polite, and had a great deal of inner confidence,' said Fyfield-Shayler."
Seems there are enough Libra keywords in that paragraph. http://www.observer.co.uk/focus/story/0,6903,582138,00.html
the 6th house. Libra's ruler Venus is in her fall, in the 2nd house,
in Scorpio, ruled by the warrior Mars--in a mutual reception. Venus'
lack of strength in Scorpio (for health indicators) cannot help but
weaken the Jupiter. But it strengthens Mars, as he is located on the
ascendant. Ruler of the chart Venus is at 22 Scorpio, currently getting
the square from Uranus. He is currently agitated, indeed. Probably moving
around a bit and with inconveniences--interruptions. The south node
is in the 8th house, squared Uranus in Leo in the 11th of this chart
leading me to believe a brief sudden death will be his fate. I guess
we all say, "Duh!" to that. This would perhaps be in an aircraft,
like his father before him, who died in the US in 1968 in a Cessna crash--his
of Bin Laden's conversion, Salhi says, began between 1977 and 1978,
as radical Palestinian groups emulated Ayatollah Khomeini's use of cassette
tapes to propagate the Islamic revolution in Iran in their operations
against Israel." http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=010414007821&query=hoyos
this birth date and progressing to January 1979, when the Russians exited
Afghanistan, the 22nd year of life which occasioned his "conversion"
to take to the Afghani cause and shun his comfortable background, I
find the progressed ascendant at ZERO Scorpio. How fitting, to leave
the rulership of Venus (which is ruled by Mars anyway) and absorb the
Scorpio rulership of Mars as a life significator.
Saudi officials seized bin Ladin's passport in a bid to prevent him
from consolidating contacts with extremists whom he had befriended during
the Afghan war. In 1991, he migrated from the Arabian peninsula after
declaring the Saudi ruling family corrupt and 'insufficiently Islamic'."
"In 1994, he
was stripped of his citizenship in Saudi Arabia. Given the "acceptance
process" to which bin Laden was subjected by the Taliban, a rather
dare devil procedure involving the stealing of jetliners to provide
wholesale importation of tons of goods--presumably weaponry--from various
locations in Islam--he obviously passed muster with the Taleban in 1996.
"With the Taliban's
blessing, Bin Laden effectively had hijacked Ariana, the national civilian
airline of Afghanistan. For four years, according to former U.S. aides
and exiled Afghan officials, Ariana's passenger and charter flights
ferried Islamic militants, arms, cash and opium through the United Arab
Emirates and Pakistan. Members of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network
were provided false Ariana identification that gave them free run of
airports in the Middle East."
"A mutual reception
'you scratch my back, and I'll return the favor,' is clearly the arrangement
between the Taliban and bin Laden.
"I thank Joan
Griffith, who recently joined the All_ancient discussion as a student
of the history of calendars, and who does not have one astrological
bone in her body, according to her private statement. She provided the
key to discovering this bit of calendar work by sending me a link to
a piece of free software to translate the calendars which provided the
missing piece of the puzzle.
I will post this
item at my website with more data as time permits. Claire-France Perez
Bin Muhammad Bin Ladin, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin, The Prince, The Emir,
Abu Abdallah, Mujahid Shaykh, Hajj, The Director
Date of Birth Used:
1957 Hair: Brown
Place of Birth: Saudi Arabia Eyes: Brown
Height: 6'4" to 6'6" Sex: Male
Weight: Approximately 160 pounds Complexion: Olive
Build: Thin Citizenship: Saudi Arabian
Language: Arabic (probably Pashtu)
Scars and Marks: None known
Remarks: Bin Laden is left-handed and walks with a cane.
30 Jul 1957 born
in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, 1377 A.H., the 17th of 24 sons/52 or 55 children.
There is some dispute as to the actual day, the confusion resulting
from Westerners not knowing what to do with an "A.H." date.
So no, we don't really know his exact birth day.
1968 Father dies in plane crash, San Antonio TX.
1979 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan.
1984 Moves to Peshawar, Pakistan.
1988 creates al Qaeda.
1991 Moves to the Sudan.
1991 U.S. stations forces in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, infuriating
1994 Saudi Arabia revokes his citizenship. Bin Laden Family disowns
Feb 1995 named in an indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator, in
the first bombing of the World Trade Center. Jane's Intelligence Review.
Mar 1996 The Government of Sudan offers to U.S. custody. The United
Aug 1996 Declares war against the United States. CIA fact sheet.
Feb 1997 "If someone can kill an American soldier, it is better
than wasting time on other matters." Interview, quoted in unclassified
Feb 1998 Announces International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the
Jews and Crusaders.
Jul 2001 Most-wanted fugitive treated at American Hospital in Dubai,
for ten days. Yes, the American Hospital. London Guardian.
12 Jul 2001 Two months and a day before 9/11, CIA agent Larry Mitchell
meets with most-wanted fugitive at American Hospital in Dubai. Radio
11 Sep 2001 World Trade Center bombing.
was given to FRONTLINE by a source close to bin Laden who would like
to remain anonymous. FRONTLINE found it a very useful source of information,
but could not independently verify much of the information contained
herein. Some of the information is true. However, some of it runs
contrary to accounts given by other reliable sources. That said, this
document does provide some important details regarding bin Laden and
his family life.
Born 1957 for
Syrian mother, was the seventh son among fifty brothers and sisters.
This document is published here exactly as in the original translated
document given to FRONTLINE. No changes have been made to grammar
His father Mohammed
Awad bin Laden came to the kingdom from Hadramout (South Yemen) sometime
around 1930. The father started his life as a very poor laborer (porter
in Jeddah port), to end up as owner of the biggest construction company
in the kingdom. During the reign of King Saud, bin Laden the father
became very close to the royal family when he took the risk of building
King Saud's palaces much cheaper than the cheapest bid. He impressed
King Saud with his performance but he also built good relations with
other members of the royal family, especially Faisal. During the Saud-Faisal
conflict in the early sixties, bin Laden the father had a big role
in convincing King Saud to step down in favor of Faisal. After Saud's
departure the treasury was empty and bin Laden was so supportive to
King Faisal that he literally paid the civil servants' wages of the
whole kingdom for six months. King Faisal then issued a decree
that all construction projects should go to bin Laden. Indeed, he
was appointed for a period as the minister of public works.
In 1969 the father
took the task of rebuilding Al-Aqsa mosque after the fire incident.
Interestingly the bin Laden family say that they have the credit of
building all the three mosques, because later on their company took
over the task of major extension in Mecca and Medina mosques.
The father was
fairly devoted Moslem, very humble and generous. He was so proud of
the bag he used when he was a porter that he kept it as a trophy in
the main reception room in his palace. The father used to insist on
his sons to go and manage some projects themselves.
The father had
very dominating personality. He insisted to keep all his children
in one premises. He had a tough discipline and observed all the children
with strict religious and social code. He maintained a special daily
program and obliged his children to follow. At the same time the father
was entertaining with trips to the sea and desert. He dealt with his
children as big men and demanded them to show confidence at young
age. He was very keen not to show any difference in the treatment
of his children.
was exposed very early on his age to this experience but he lost his
father when he was 13. He married at the age of 17 to a Syrian girl
who was a relative. He grew up as religiously committed boy and the
early marriage was another factor of protecting him from corruption.
Osama had his
primary, secondary and even university education in Jeddah. He had
a degree in public administration 1981 from King Abdul-Aziz university
in Jeddah. Countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
and Sudan are the only countries he has been to. All stories of trips
to Switzerland, Philippines, and London are all unfounded.
In addition to
the general Islamic commitment he started forming an Islamic responsibility
at early age. His father used to host hundreds of pilgrims during
Hajj season from al over the world. Some of those were senior Islamic
scholars or leaders of Muslim movements. This habit went on even after
his father's death through his elder brothers. He used to make good
contacts and relations through those gatherings.
At secondary school
and university he adopted the main trend of many educated Muslims
at that time, Muslim Brotherhood. There was a collection of Muslim
scholars in Jeddah and Mecca at that period. There was nothing extraordinary
in his personality and that trend was rather very non-confrontational.
Interestingly, the 1980 raid in the Grand Mosque in Mecca was not
appealing to him, neither the theology or that group. He had two distinguished
teachers in Islamic studies, which was a compulsory subject in the
university. First was Abdullah Azzam who became later as one of the
big names in Afghanistan and the second was Mohammed Quttub, a famous
Islamic writer and philosopher.
The first encounter
with Afghanistan was as early as the first two weeks of Soviet invasion.
He went to Pakistan and was taken by his hosts Jamaat Islami from
Karachi to Peshawar to see the refugees and meet some leaders. Some
of those leaders like Rabbani and Sayyaf were common faces to him
because he met them during Hajj gatherings That trip which was [a]
secret trip lasted for almost a month and was an exploratory rather
than action trip. He went back to the kingdom and started lobbying
with his brothers, relatives and friends at the school to support
the mujahedeen. He succeeded in collecting huge amount of money and
material as donations to jihad. He made another trip to take this
material. He took with him few Pakistanis and Afghanis who were working
in bin Laden company for more than ten years. Again, he did not stay
more than a month The trip was to Pakistan and the border only and
was not to Afghanistan. He went on collecting money and going in short
trips once or twice a year until 1982.
In 1982 he decided
to go inside Afghanistan. He brought with him plenty of the construction
machinery and put them at the disposal of the mujahedeen He started
spending more and more time in Afghanistan occasionally joining actual
battles but not in an organized manner. His presence was encouraging
to more Saudis to come but the numbers were still small at that period.
In 1984 he had
one further step in strengthening his presence in Afghanistan by establishing
the guesthouse in Peshawar (Baitul'ansar). That house was supposed
to be the first station of Arab mujahedeen when they come to Afghanistan
before going to the front or start training. At that period Osama
did not have his own command or training camps. He used to send the
newcomers to one of the Afghan factions.
establishment was coinciding with the formation of Jihad Service Bureau
by Abdullah Azzam in Peshawar. The Bureau was very active in terms
of media, publications and charity work. The Bureau publications were
important in attracting more Saudis and Arabs to Afghanistan.
In 1986 Osama
decided to have his own camps inside Afghanistan and within two years
he built more than six camps. Some were mobilized more than once.
He decided to have his own front and to run his own battles with his
own command. Among the Arab fighters he had, there were senior Arab
ex-military men from Syria and Egypt with good military experience.
The story of the guesthouse and the camps was very attractive for
more Arab mujahedeen to come and there was a significant surge in
their numbers at that period.
In addition to
many exchanges of fire and small operations, the first major battle
he had face to face with the Soviet army with pure Arab personnel
was the battle of Jaji in the province of Baktia 200 kilometers away
from Khost. From then until 1989 he had more than five major battles
with hundreds of small operations and exchanges of fire. During the
period 1984-1989 he was staying more in Afghanistan than Saudi Arabia.
He would spend a total of eight months a year or more in Afghanistan.
In 1988 he noticed
that he was backward in his documentation and was not able to give
answers to some families asking about their loved ones gone missing
in Afghanistan. He decided to make the matter much more organized
and arranged for proper documentation. He made a tracking record of
the visitors, be they mujahedeen or charity or simple visitors. Their
movement between the guesthouse and the camps had to be recorded as
well as their first arrival and final departure. The whole complex
was then termed Al-Qa'edah which is an Arabic word meaning "The
Base." Al-Qa'edah was very much public knowledge. It was funny
to see some people triumphing because they discovered it!
Late 1989 after
the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, he went to the kingdom in
an ordinary trip. There he was banned from travel and was trapped
in the kingdom. The Soviet withdrawal might have been a factor but
the main reason for the travel ban were his intentions to start a
new "front" of jihad in South Yemen. In addition, he embarrassed
the regime by lectures and speeches warning of impending invasion
by Saddam. At that time the regime was at very good terms with Saddam.
He was instructed officially to keep low profile and not to give public
talks. Despite the travel ban he was not hostile to regime at this
stage. Indeed he presented a written advice in the form of a detailed,
personal, private and confidential letter to the king few weeks before
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
He reacted swiftly
to Iraqi invasion and saw it fulfilling his prophecy. He immediately
forwarded another letter to the king suggesting in detail how to protect
the country from potentially advancing Iraqi forces. In addition to
many military tactics suggested, he volunteered to bring all the Arab
mujahedeen to defend the kingdom. That letter was presented in the
first few days of the incident, and the regime response was of consideration!
While he was expecting
some call to mobilize his men and equipment he heard the news which
transferred his life completely. The Americans are coming. He always
describes that moment as shocking moment. He felt depressed and thought
that maneuvers had to change. Instead of writing to the king or approaching
other members of the royal family, he started lobbying through religious
scholars and Muslim activists. He succeeded in extracting a fatwah
from one of the senior scholars that training and readiness is a religious
duty. He immediately circulated that fatwah and convinced people to
have their training in Afghanistan. It was estimated that 4000 went
to Afghanistan in response to the fatwah. The regime was not happy
with his activities so they limited his movement to Jeddah only. He
was summoned for questioning twice for some of his speeches and activities
and was given warnings. To intimidate him, the regime raided his farm
in the suburb of Jeddah by the National Guard. He was not there during
the raid and was very angry when told. He wrote a letter of protest
to Prince Abdullah. Abdullah apologized and claimed he is not aware
and promised to punish who ever were responsible.
Osama was fed
up with this almost house arrest situation and did not imagine himself
able to stay in the country with the American forces around. One of
his brothers was very close to King Fahad and also close to Prince
Ahmed, deputy minister of interior. He convinced his brother that
he needed to leave the country to sort out some business matters in
Pakistan and come back. There was a difficult obstacle, the stubborn
Prince Nayef, minister of interior. His brother waited until Nayef
went in a trip outside the kingdom and extracted lifting the ban from
prince Ahmed. When he arrived in Pakistan around April 1991 he sent
a letter to his brother telling him that he is not coming back and
apologized for letting him down with the royal family.
After his arrival
to Pakistan he went straight to Afghanistan because he knew the Pakistani
intelligence would hand him back to the Saudis. There, he attended
the collapse of the communist regime and the consequent dispute between
the Afghan parties. He spent great effort to arbitrate between them
but with no success He ordered his followers to avoid any involvement
in the conflict and told them it was a sin to side with any faction.
During his stay the Saudis tried more than once to kidnap or kill
him in collaboration with the Pakistani intelligence. His friends
in the Saudi and Pakistani establishments would always leak the plan
and make him ready for it. After his failure in sorting the Afghani
dispute, he decided to leave Afghanistan. The only alternative country
he had was Sudan. He left Afghanistan disguised in private jet only
few months after his arrival. That was late 1991.
His choice of
Sudan had nothing to do with jihad or "terrorism." He was
attracted to Sudan because of what was at that time an Islamic banner
raised by the new regime in Sudan. He wanted to have good refuge as
well as help the government in its construction projects. There was
no intention from his side or from the Sudanese regime to have any
military activity in Sudan. Indeed the Sudanese government refused
even sending some of his followers to the front in the south. He was
treated in Sudan as a special guest who wanted to help Sudan when
everybody was turning away. In Sudan he mobilized a lot of construction
equipment and enrolled himself in busy construction projects. He spent
good effort in convincing Saudi businessmen to invest in Sudan and
had reasonable success. Many of his brothers and Jeddah merchants
had and still have investment in real estate, farming and agricultural
industry. In Sudan he had again escaped an assassination attempt which
turned out later to be the plan of Saudi intelligence.
During his stay
in Sudan anti-American incidents happened in Somalia and South Yemen.
Neither of the two incidents was performed by his group in the proper
sense of chain of command. Both were performed by people who had training
in Afghanistan and had enough anti-American drive. He might have given
some sanctioning to the operations but one thing was certain, the
Sudanese were completely unaware of either.
Between his arrival
to Sudan and early 1994 he was not regarded publicly as Saudi opposition
and Saudi citizens were visiting him without too much precautions.
Only the well-informed people would know that he was classified as
enemy to the Saudi regime. His assets were frozen sometime between
1992 and 1994 but that was not published. The Saudis decided to announce
their hostility early 1994 when they publicized withdrawing his citizenship.
After long silence
and tolerance, bin Laden replied by issuing a communiqué condemning
the Saudi decision and saying that he does not need the "Saudi"
reference to identify himself and it is not up to Al-Saud to admit
or expel people from Arabian Peninsula. He then formed together with
activists and scholars from the kingdom a group called "Advice
and Reform Committee" (ARC). The ARC was, according to its communiqués
and published agenda, a purely political group. The ARC published
around 17 communiqués which might have contained harsh criticism of
the Saudi regime and plenty of religious rhetoric but never contained
reference for violence or incitment of violence.
The car bomb in
spring 1995 in Riyadh was the first major anti-American action in
the kingdom. Bin Laden never claimed responsibility, but the Saudi
government tried to link the incident to bin Laden by showing video
confessions of four "Arab Afghans" involved in the bombing.
Sudan was exposed
to huge international pressure for hosting bin Laden and his followers,
and bin Laden felt that he is becoming an embarrassment to the Sudanese.
Early in 1996 he started making contacts with his old friends in Afghanistan
to prepare for his reception. He fled Sudan in a very well planned
trip with many of his followers to go straight to Jalalabad in Eastern
When he arrived
there, the situation in Afghanistan was very unsettled between the
many factions, but he had very good relations with all factions and
all would protect him. The area he arrived to was under control of
Yunis Khalis, a very influential warlord who later on joined Taliban.
June 1996, after
his arrival in Afghanistan was the Khobar bombing. Nobody claimed
responsibility, but sources from inside the Saudi ministry of interior
confirmed involvement of Arab Afghans, with possible link to bin Laden
The Saudi government wanted to frame Shi'a, at the beginning but Americans
were very suspicious of the Saudi story. Bin Laden himself never claimed
responsibility but gave many hints that he might have been involved.
The Saudi government has acknowledged recently that bin Laden's men
were behind the bombing.
After few months
of his arrival he issued his first anti-American message, a Declaration
of War. That declaration was limited to expelling American forces
outside the Arabian Peninsula. His sense of security and nobody to
embarrass must have been the drive to release that 12 page declaration.
Interest in him by the Saudis never stopped and they tried very hard
to convince Yunis Khalis to hand him over, and he flatly refused despite
the luxurious offers.
Jalalabad late 1996, almost without war, and bin Laden came under
their control. He was optimistic that they will give him sanctuary
but he was not sure. He was surprised when a delegation of Taliban
came to meet him by order of Mullah Omer, the leader of Taliban, with
instructions to reassure him that he will have even better protection
under Taliban. The delegation expressed Taliban honor of protecting
somebody like him who sacrificed a lot for the sake of jihad.
The Saudis never
gave up. Early 1997 they bought some mercenaries in the Pakistani
Afghani border. The operation was arranged with the Pakistani intelligence.
The information leaked to bin Laden and he decided to move immediately
to Qandahar, the stronghold of Taliban. The operation was then cancelled.
When bin Laden
left Jalalabad, he ordered many of his followers to join Taliban in
their war against Dostum and to protect Kabul. The unexpected happened.
Taliban troops were fooled by a trap in the north and Kabul front
was exposed to Shah Masood. Taliban were so disorganized at that stage
that it was only those few Arabs who were there to push Shah Masood
off Kabul and they did efficiently.
The leader of
Taliban Mulla Omer was keen to meet Osama. He met him early 1997 after
two TV interviews, Channel 4 and CNN. Mulla Omer expressed respect
and admiration but requested him to have low profile. He stressed
that that was a request and not an order. Osama replied with appreciation
and thanks and reassured Mulla Omer that he was going very low profile.
Sometime in late
1997 a big operation was planned by the Americans. The primary plan
was for American special forces to attack bin Laden's residence in
Qandahar and kidnap him in a commando style operation. The plan was
mocked in Pakistani desert and proved dangerous. While the Americans
were reconsidering the decision, the news leaked to bin Laden, again
through the Pakistani military, and he made it public. That was published
in Al-Quds Al-Arabi in London. The Americans had no choice but to
cancel. Americans acknowledged this incident only recently, but did
not acknowledge the leak.
Bin Laden noticed
that the driving force in Taliban were Ulema (religious scholars).
He made very good links with them and lobbied specifically for the
subject of American forces in the Arabian Peninsula. He was able to
extract a fatwah signed by some 40 scholars in Afghanistan sanctioning
the use of all means to expel the American forces from the Peninsula.
The issue of that fatwah was an asset to him inside Taliban domain.
He felt that Ulema were at his back and he can go high profile after
His second presence
in Afghanistan has attracted many mujahedeen to move there again.
Among those were Ayman El-Zawahery of Egyptian Jihad and Rift'ee Taha
of Jama'a Islamia. There was also new phenomenon during that period.
Bin Laden decided to go pan-Islamic instead of Saudi or Arabic. He
attracted Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Indians, and Muslims from the Soviet
Republics. He thought at that stage that he could make an
international alliance against America. In February 1998 he declared
the formation of the International Front. The declaration
contained two elements, formation of the front and a fatwah sanctioning
killing Americans and Jews. Apart from two Arabic newspapers, the
declaration had minimal coverage by the press.
the media for almost a year he decided to open the door wide for them.
In April 1998 he received the ABC TV team and two weeks later he held
press conference in Khost and warned of impending attack in few weeks
time. Mulla Omer was not happy with this new media escalation, but
felt it difficult to control him while he is protected by the scholars.
Indeed bin Laden said that he would abide with what ever the Ulema
The bombings in
Kenya and Tanzania July 1998 were not a big surprise. Yes, it was
a surprise but in terms of choice of location and targets. Despite
his declaration of war against America anywhere, the attack was expected
inside Saudi Arabia. Having said that, it is not [to be taken] for
granted that he is behind the bombing.
It is not known
why the Americans chose a camp in Khost to retaliate. The camp was
an almost deserted camp where only few Arabs have stayed, with a neighboring
camp of Kashmiris. Bin Laden himself was hundreds of miles away, and
the rest of Arab Afghans were in the northern front celebrating their
Since the American
attack bin Laden was put in heavy protection and advised to stay hiding.
His followers made another credit when they protected Kabul front
again and pushed Masood forces back.
Bin Laden was
brought up with good manners. He matured as extremely humble and very
generous person. He insists to join his comrades in every act. Very
frequently he cooks for them and serves them. He lives a simple life
in a small flat in Jeddah or in a shed in Afghanistan and insists
on his family to eat simple and to dress simple.
known to be strictly truthful and would never lie, but he
is politically conscious and believes there is a room for political
maneuver even if you are devoted person. Despite being shy he has
dominating personality. He speaks very little and looks serious most
of the time. He would appear with a soft smile but he seldom
laughs. His followers see a lot of aura on him and show great voluntary
respect to him. For some reason that falls short of a proper charisma.
He is not known for giving distinguished speeches, and there
is almost no audio or video recordings of him.
is widely educated and spends a good deal of time reading. He is fond
of media monitoring and information gathering and research. There
was always a data management team with him wherever he went.
Among the outstanding
features is his courage. He will not show a flicker even if a bomb
exploded near him. He was exposed to more than 40 incidents of heavy
bombardment, three of them were full of death and flesh around him.
A Scud missile exploded 17 meters distance from him. At one time he
was almost the victim of chemical weapons. More than once he needed
treatment in hospital for body injuries. Despite this courage he is
very cautious person. He would not keep any electronic
instrument close to his vicinity. Some times he even avoids any device
even if it is a simple watch near him because he believes this might
help in targeting him.
He is intelligent
and has reasonable strategic thinking, but he downgrades himself in
the presence of Islamic scholars. He always admires Shiekh Safar al-Hawali
and would have not gone through his current controversial path if
al-Hawali was free. Some people saw him as a man with vision, others
doubt it. They think that he never had clear long term plan. They
see the last fatwah as evidence of that.
Contrary to what
is always reiterated bin Laden has never had official relations
with the Saudi regime or the royal family. All his contacts would
happen through his brothers. The brothers would approach
two members of the royal family who were fairly sympathetic to Osama.
They were Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of interior and Abdul
Rahman bin Abdul Aziz, deputy minister of defense. He might have met
them in few occasions but those meetings would have been purely social
or accidental in one of his brother's houses. Specifically he had
no relation with Turki al-Faisal head of Saudi intelligence. He used
to be very suspicious of his role in Afghanistan and once had open
confrontation with him in 1991 and accused him of being the reason
of the fight between Afghan factions. He was wary of the Saudi government
very early in the eighties, but he thought it was wiser to keep silent
and benefit from their de facto support to jihad in that period.
has never had any relation with America or American officials. Claims
of relation with CIA or other American departments are all unfounded.
Since the late seventies he had strong anti-American feeling.
He committed himself and family and advised all friends to avoid buying
American goods unless it was necessary. He was saying very early in
the eighties that the next battle is going to be with America. ...
No aid or training or other support have ever been given to bin Laden
from Americans. Bin Laden would bring money from individuals donating
straight to him. The weapons he had were either captured from the
Soviets or bought from other factions.
Again there were
no official relations with officials in Pakistani government. However,
he had paramount respect by many Pakistanis including people in the
army, intelligence and religious establishment. They were so penetrating
that they would always leak any plan against him by the Pakistani-Saudi-American
His relation with
Taliban would best be understood if Taliban themselves are understood
properly. First of all Taliban are not simply another Afghan faction
supported by Pakistan. Taliban are sincere to their beliefs, a religiously
committed group unspoiled by political tactics. They would never bargain
with what they see as matters of principle. Bin Laden for them is
a saint. He is a symbol of sacrifice for the sake of jihad. They see
him as very rich Arab from the Holy Land who gave up his wealth and
luxury to fight for the sake of his brother Muslims in Afghanistan.
They see themselves performing a double duty here, an Islamic duty
of protecting this distinguished person and a tribal duty of protecting
a descent refugee. The latter is a big value in Afghanistan. Once,
a Taliban leader said to a Saudi envoy that if a goat would seek refuge
to my tent I would never hand it over, how on earth do you want us
to hand over a holy man like bin Laden?
There was no argument
within Taliban about handing over bin Laden. There is however some
difference in opinion about how high his media profile should be.
In addition to
the factor of principle, bin Laden had twice had the credit of protecting
Bin Laden became
an intimate part of Taliban structure when he taught them how to deal
with state affairs in a proper manner. For example, they were to be
fooled by some oil and gas companies and sell the pipeline project
for cheap. He advised them to learn from the Iraq-Turkey and Iraq-Syria
agreements. They wanted to privatize some factories and were about
to sell them to Pakistani businessmen for cheap prices. He taught
them how to conduct proper bidding procedure and guarantee good prices.
It is needless
to say that bin Laden has not had any relation with Iran. Iran knows
that bin Laden is a committed Sunni and he regards Iran as Shi'a state.
The trust between the two is minimal but both have avoided criticizing
each other publicly. Having said that, he sees America as common enemy
and according to a Pakistani newspaper he regards an anti-American
alliance with Iran and China as something to be considered.
bin Laden has
two circles of followers. First are the closed core followers who
are related to him by a chain of command and take orders like a secret
organization. Most of those are probably in Afghanistan. Many are
inside Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia and probably Gulf countries. Like
any secret group, those followers would not disclose their relation.
Inside Saudi Arabia many of those would appear like any average
citizen. The number of those is probably in hundreds.
The second circle
is much wider and the number is probably in thousands. They are located
in the same countries. They would look at bin Laden as Godfather but
they do not have proper chain of command or secret links with him.
They would regard themselves obliged to perform some of his general
orders. Most of those followers are not organized and get trapped
by the Saudi police fairly easily. But some are intelligent and make
use of the loose nature of their structure to function without attracting
Before his final
departure from Saudi Arabia, his financial activities were almost
copies of his brothers. Indeed, he is still part of the big mother
company. However he had committed himself at very early stage to a
special code which he thought was necessary to guarantee the Islamic
nature of this activity. For example he would never invest in non-Islamic
country. He would never use banks unless it was absolutely
necessary. He does not believe in stock market because he
thought the investor cannot escape interest since the money has to
be in a bank and produce some interest. He is also preoccupied with
the idea that Jews control banks and stock market.
He had three setbacks
which would have made him bankrupt otherwise. The first was
the freezing of his direct assets by the Saudi government. All his
traceable money was frozen including his share in the big mother company
of bin Laden. No body knows the exact amount but it was probably in
the range of 200-300 million Dollars.
The second setback
was the loss he had in Sudan. The Sudanese government was too weak
financially to pay him for the construction projects and he ended
up hardly with 10% of the payment. He lost in Sudan not less than
150 million dollars.
The third setback
happened last year when one of his close aids defected to the Saudi
government. The defector Sidi Tayyib Al-Madani had some financial
information about him until early 1995. Bin Laden knew about the plans
of this man to defect and so had few months to liquidate the few businesses
known to this defector. There was very little trace of those businesses
but dismantling them was not without loss.
There is, however
the other side of the story. Bin Laden is a member of a big family.
His father's financial inheritance has not been sorted. The brothers
agreed to keep many assets of the father and distribute the profits
only. Most of the brothers and sisters are observing Muslims and very
keen not to "spoil" their income with money which is not
theirs. They believe it is their duty to let the owner of any riyal
to have it. The only way they guarantee that is by letting bin Laden's
share reach him. Some of the brothers and sisters believed it was
their religious duty to support this distinguished brother from their
own money. While many are very careful not to irritate the royal family,
many more do not care and insist on letting the money reach Osama.
bin Laden family money is structured is very complicated because there
is the big company and there are many small companies of few brothers
together, and there are many individuals with their personal investment.
To make the matter even more complex it is very well known that bin
Laden family money is intimately mixed with the royal family money
in a very complex way. Most of the companies are joint ventures with
members of the royal family including King Fahad himself.
There is another
big source of income to bin Laden, donations. During the early jihad
era when it was blessed by the Saudi regime, he made excellent relations
with many wealthy Saudis and Arabs. It is true that most of those
would not support him now because of the Saudi government position
but some do take the risk.
Lastly, bin Laden
activities are not very dependent on money. His followers are not
mercenaries. Training does not cost a lot of money. Explosives and
weapons are very cheap in some parts of the world. In Somalia TNT
for example is cheaper than sugar. In Yemen you can buy an RPG for
less than TV set. The role of money here is over exaggerated by many
In the eighties
bin Laden was seen as a star of the Afghan Jihad. He was very much
admired and respected for his sacrifice but he was not seen as a potential
leader. Almost nobody saw leadership ambitions in him at that period.
His public image was so good that the regime used this image to have
a boost during early days of the Gulf War. The regime published a
fabricated interview with him in "Al-Muslimoon" newspaper
claiming he supported the regime measures to counteract the Iraqi
In the period
between Iraqi invasion and his reappearance in Afghanistan 1996 he
was almost forgotten by the public. The elite and especially the jihadis
were still admiring him and following up his news. Some even made
their way to Sudan to meet him and offer support. The public were
reminded about him by the video confessions of the group attributed
to Riyadh bombing.
After his declaration
of jihad in 1996 his public image had a surge but this time as a leader
rather than a star. There was a lot of controversy about him. In Saudi
Arabia nobody would accuse him of being part of conspiracy but people
would differ about his new program. There was almost a consensus in
the Saudi domain on refusal of American presence in Arabia and many
would like the idea of expelling the Americans by force. Many others
had reservations and thought violence will bring a lot of trouble
to the country. Interestingly those who disagreed with him did not
accuse him having personal agenda or looking for personal benefits.
This image went
on with occasional boosts by the media until the African bombings.
Interestingly the story of the International Front and fatwah
did not attract much attention. The Kenya Tanzania bombings reminded
people of bin Laden. The media coverage was so overwhelming that the
Saudi authorities felt jealous of bin Laden. People's reaction,
however, was mixed. While many felt triumph for scaring the Americans,
many others felt upset by the picture of hundreds of civilians killed
and injured in the attack. They felt that this can never be justified.
The American missiles
then played very strong role in sorting the controversy. After the
American attack on Sudan an d
Afghanistan it became almost
shameful to criticize bin Laden. People inside Saudi Arabia and in other Arab countries were full
of anger towards America,
and whoever can antagonize America
would provide a fulfillment to their desire of discharging their anger.
The American strike with the associated remarks by Clinton and American
officials proved that bin Laden is a big challenge to America. In the mind of average Arab and Muslim
bin Laden appeared as the man who was able to drive America so crazy that it started
shooting haphazardly at unjustified targets. There was another factor
which made people forget the scene of civilian victims, the special
nature of the Sudanese factory. Those who had reservations of the
African bombings thought that this arrogance of the Americans
is much worse than the embassy bombings. Their view was that while
bin Laden or others can make "executive" mistake because
of their difficult circumstances, logistics and communication, America
is not supposed to do this mistake unless it is done in purpose.
the jealousy of the Saudi regime was seen clearly in the Saudi media
when they instructed the Saudi TV and radio not to mention bin Laden
name at all. Even when they reported the American missile attack the
news item was " attack on terrorist base in Afghanistan,